Today there is a Shark Fin Soup Protest in San Francisco's China Town. I'm sure the organizers planned this protest as an awareness campaign to coincide with the first day of Chinese (Lunar) New Year.
Shark Fin Soup is Chinese meal that has been enjoyed as a special occasion meal for hundreds of years, since the Ming Dynasty. The dish is tied closely to an entire culture for a very long time. However, human impact on nature and the ecosystems of the world has brought us to a new day. A day that requires us all to reconsider some of our traditions so that we can sustain our lives for the future. We can no longer consume resources and not think about the short and long-term impact of our decisions.
With today being to beginning of the Chinese New Year, and the protest being staged in America's most famous (and oldest) Chinatown, I am hesitant to bring unpleasant attention to a community when they/we are celebrating the greatness of a culture. However, it is a perfect time to garner attention to a very important issue. I support the boycott of shark fin soup because of the conservation implications of it.
Why Shark Fin Soup is A Conservation Issue?
Sharks are very important marine predators. Like wolves or bears or hawks that live on land, sharks are the top predators in the ocean. Predators are important for keeping prey species numbers and distribution in check. Without predators, prey species will breed and reproduce generations of babies with nothing more than weather or chance to keep them from over populating an area. When a species grows too big and too fast, the competition for food and space can become intense. Individuals of the same species will fight for food and space with an intensity unknown before. As resources become more scarce (because there are so many eating everything up) starvation becomes more common. And whatever you think of wild animals, starving is perhaps the most unpleasant way for life to come to an end. But that is exactly what happens when a population's growth out-paces the growth of its food resources. Moreover, communicable diseases become more common. With so many individuals living so close to each other, it makes spreading disease, viruses, and parasites too easy. This also leads to unpleasant die-offs of animals.
These are the reasons why predators are important.
Sharks are members of the ocean ecosystem and I would hate for the world to lose another great species. If you want to learn more about sharks and marine ecosystems, then
check out these great books about marine predators (and prey):
Tough, Toothy Baby Sharks by Sandra Markle
Predators of the Sea and Survival Secrets of of Sea Animals by Mary Jo Rhodes
Or visit my friends Marine blogs and these websites to learn more.
Southern Fried Science (I assure you, it is a Marine Blog)